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Chris Frankland

Discussion in 'audio' started by Patcam, Jan 2, 2015.

  1. Patcam

    Patcam pfm Member

    I wonder how many of us remember Chris Frankland, one time editor of Popular Hifi who then went on to found the controversial Flat Response and also HiFi Review?

    Chris was a great innovator and original thinker who blatantly challenged the accepted way of doing things back in the late 70's early 80's, and a strong supporter of the Linn/Naim faction.

    Reading his reminiscences on another forum recently, much of what he said then is still very much pertinent today. It would be interesting indeed to have a new voice such as his to tell it how it is in today's much more sophisticated market!

    Article here:
  2. Robert

    Robert Tapehead

    I remember him well having been introduced to him as a stary-eyed school kid by a neighbour and old friend of Chris. At one time I even set up a Flat Response site hosting all of the published issues of TFR. He's a pleasant and interesting guy, However -

    Chris and his blind faith flat earthism did massive damage to the uk hi-fi industry, persuading the gullible (me included at the time) to spend their cash on second/third rate crap while dissing some superb equipment from established companies and particularly kit from Japan.

    There were two positives to come from the flat earth period.
    Chris and his followers were rightly sceptical of expensive US kit imported by Absolute Sounds.
    He had a healthy dislike for silly cables.

    The magazines make interesting reading today, though sadly only hold comedy value.
  3. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    An interesting part of audio history. I'm not as polarised as Rob and enjoyed the 'flat earth' thing at the time. Sure, there was a load of hype, spin and politics, as there always is, but I suspect the real issue was that the UK audio companies simply couldn't compete on build against complex die-cast Japanese direct drive decks and beautifully finished receivers etc, so looked to the only real alternate angle: minimalism! Much of it was good solid reliable and well-made kit that stood up well in listening tests and is still perfectly serviceable today. Ok, some was quirky, temperamental, made by idiots and best avoided, but that's another story. I certainly have no ill-feeling, regrets or anything - I enjoyed climbing the Linn/Naim mountain as much as anything I've done since. My biggest regret is I didn't predict the second hand market of the future and fill a shed with 301s, 124s, LS3/5As, Tannoys etc! I also rather wish I'd kept my Onix OA21, that was a nice little amp!

    PS HiFi Review is the only audio mag I've ever subscribed to aside from my current Stereophile subscription (which I buy mainly as it's cheap!). I think I had a full set, though all long gone now.
  4. rontoolsie

    rontoolsie pfm Member

    CF had quite a few entertaining presuppositional reviews...the Planar 3 bettering the Oracle...the Linn Basik cartridge destroying a Koetsu etc. Both of course were absolute twoddle.

    As far as the Absolute Sounds line...it took me only a few seconds in a home demo to realize exactly how much tone, detail, space and humanity were lacking in the NAP135s compared to an Audio Research D70mk2, while the latter retained (and improved) all the legendary PRaT. Enough for me to drop 2000 UKP in 1984 when the 135s were just a couple months old! The Audio Research SP10/D250 combination was *devastatingly* good, albeit at a devastatingly high price. The $800 Sumiko 'The Arm', at 3-4x also showed those early Ittoks to be very colored and resonant.

    I think the uber priced valve gear and planar speakers made quite a few of us realize that current Brit state-of-the-art gear was more upper mid fi rather than truly hi fi.

    Returning to CF....he did to a very honest and insightful review in HFA of what were to be my long term speakers- the Tangent RS4. I tried replacing them with Kans, 401, SMG, Sara etc (all of which were obtained on home demo's) and none of them could do what the RS4 did, when driven by a 42/Hicap/AR D70.

    There were also several very worthy British turntable makers that failed very early on because they did not fit into the Dual/Rega/Linn trifecta. STD, JBE, the Source and so on. It took the more liberal HFN&RR to partially undo the damage that the monolithic railings of the Haymarket Press.

    Which is not to say that the Flat Earth ambitions were totally devoid of any merit. One listen to a LP12/Ittok/Basik into a Creek 4040 and some Kans was an addicting sound, if you preferred that certain flavor of Kool Aid over spring water.
  5. Gromit

    Gromit Plasticine Dog

    Always thought CF was an even bigger tool than my 250ft/lb torque wrench.
  6. Markus S

    Markus S 41 - 29

  7. Rob400

    Rob400 pfm Member

    Chris became a professional photographer. Not sure if he's retired these days.

    I agree with Ron that the Linn Basik destroying a Koetsu Black was over the top but not that any of the old Absolute Sound line matched Naim in the PRAT department. The problem with the old Flat Response/HiFi Review reviews was that the said PRAT was the be all and end all when deciding which gear to recommend. It was a case of forget the timbre, tone, sound stage, how well does it play tunes. I swallowed it back then but wouldn't now. Never the less I enjoyed many a fine hour listening to Rock on my often upgraded Linn/Naim system that Chris, Derek Whittington, Malcolm Steward and dear old Peter Turner recommended
  8. Rambla

    Rambla Active Member

    Didn't Chris get himself into a bit of bother with HM Customs & Excise (as then known) re: VAT, which lead to his (and HFR's) downfall?
  9. paskinn

    paskinn pfm Member

    What strikes me is how closely CF aligned his views with his commercial interests, His magazine was promoted and sold by the traders who stocked the narrow range of equipment he recommended.
    His overseas sales also seem to have been organised by the commercial interests he so relentlessly pushed.
    In the end, he functioned as part of the marketing department of Linn and Naim. I don't see anything brave or revolutionary in that.
  10. Werner

    Werner pfm Member

    Ah, so that was you ...

    Those interested in the archive can PM me.
  11. Blzebub

    Blzebub Banned

    He latched onto Linn/Naim's coat-tails, and wrote reams of condescending nonsense about their kit. A sort of accessory marketing dept. for the two firms. I was shocked when I first heard Briks with a "6-pack", having read how fantastic it was supposed to be. Less forgivable was Frankland's utterly appalling taste in music: Luther Vandross et al.
  12. david ellwood

    david ellwood Kirabosi Kognoscente

    kettle pot black
  13. MikeMA

    MikeMA pfm Member

    CF is the main reason I'd never countenance listening to or buying Linn or Naim stuff.
  14. Burrells Boy

    Burrells Boy pfm Member

    CF is the main reason I'd never countenance listening to or buying Linn or Naim stuff.

    That says it all!
  15. Robert

    Robert Tapehead

    Shhh.....don't tell everyone.

    I was a bit harsh - 'crap' was OTT so I'll change it to 'mediocre'.

    The problem wasn't so much the glowing reviews given to a tiny few select products, but the lambasting of perfectly good equipment which was deemed out of favour.
    The savaging of Audiolab, Mission and Cyrus for example, coupled by the equally harmful damning with faint praise reserved for the products from other small british companies such as Myst and Albarry. Then of course all Japanese amplifiers were deemed poor, and direct drive turntables of all kinds slagged off for being tuneless.
    This must have done damage to small emerging companies and the industry as a whole.

    I have a full set of TFR and most issues of Review. Quite a large collection of Popular Hi-Fi but that wasn't so biased.
  16. Paul R

    Paul R pfm Member

    I think I may have provided Robert's original scans. Time flies.

    I liked the irreverence, and the subjectivism is as valid as anything we read in a forum nowadays.

  17. Robert

    Robert Tapehead

    You did Paul, I still have the CDR :)
  18. conread

    conread pfm Member

    Same here. And the subjectivism seem more valid, more honest regardless of right or wrong. I wonder why.
  19. RustyB

    RustyB Registered Ginga

    CF didn't review everything himself.

    Ian Rankin's reviews were on the level. There was a comparison of four speakers that included the Naim SBL. Given the magazine's bias, you might have expected them to win; they didn't.
  20. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    You have to be kidding! I'm sure he's in print somewhere as saying he often didn't even take the kit out the box and just wrote what he thought would read well!

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